Amazon's Ring reportedly gave unrestricted camera access to employees

Marco Green
January 12, 2019

Within the company, a team that was supposed to have been focused on helping Ring get better at object recognition in videos caught customers in videos doing everything from kissing to firing guns and stealing. In addition to Ring deciding against encrypting video files as it was a costly endeavor that would also lose the company revenue opportunities, R&D employees in Ukraine had access to a folder with "every video created by every Ring camera around the world". Ring security cameras, which are made by an Amazon-owned company and can be installed on doorbells, garages, and bookshelves, reportedly gave unrestricted access to the camera feed and video recordings of a customer's home and property to the company's research and development team and a small bunch of other employees as well. In fact, the Ring Doorbell 2 was one of the best-selling smart home devices on Amazon during the 2018 holiday season.

As well as that, some U.S. employees specifically have access to a video portal of customer cameras to allow them to give technical support; however, according to the report, even employees that didn't deal with customers had access to it. It appears that this team is responsible for developing Ring's AI object recognition technology, so it actually makes sense that this team has access to some real-world data, and they employ people specifically for the goal of viewing and annotating these videos. Reportedly, only a customer's email address was required to watch cameras from that person's home.

While the source claimed they "never personally witnessed any egregious abuses", the line was slightly at odds with the sentence just 19 words later: "The source also recounted instances of Ring engineers "teasing each other about who they brought home" after romantic dates".

Allegedly, the engineers in Ukraine continued to "worked around the controls".

So, what should you do if you have a Ring camera?

Whether or not your own a Ring product now, does this change your thought of the company as a whole?

From there, employees could access the footage from anywhere, according to a separate report from the Information.

Ring said that the videos used to improve its service come from "publicly shared Ring videos from the Neighbors app", along with customers who have given explicit written consent for their use.

"We take the privacy and security of our customers" personal information extremely seriously, ' the spokesperson told the Intercept. The Intercept writes that neither Ring's ToS or privacy policy mentions that its staff could access users' videos. In order to improve our service, we view and annotate certain Ring video recordings.

In response, Ring released a statement, saying: "We have strict policies in place for all our team members". We hold our team members to a high ethical standard and anyone in violation of our policies faces discipline, including termination and potential legal and criminal penalties.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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